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*********

Gradually, the space around them grew lighter, or at least more grey. It seemed to lose depth even as the road under their feet lost its grittiness, became insubstantial.

Greg stopped. His hold on Mycroft, and Mycroft’s hold on him, forced Mycroft to halt as well.

“What now?” he asked. Looked up at Mycroft; watched the muscles in his jaw resolutely not twitch.

“We go home,” Mycroft said easily. The faintest of false notes in his voice. Greg smiled, lips stretched tight over his teeth, and leaned in close.

“I know how this works, too,” he whispered confidentially. Mycroft’s carefully blank expression--too careful. Too crafted. “I thought I’d made it clear. I will not stand to lose anything, Mycroft Holmes.”

“I don’t--”

“You won’t lie to me,” Greg interrupted. He turned, pressed himself to Mycroft’s suddenly rigid form. “I won’t stand for that, either. I have a beach, and a cave, I think. Someplace dark and wet. Then a room, and something’s in it. That thing, I assume. But I can’t see it.”

“It’s better--” Mycroft began, and startled when Greg put his fingers over Mycroft’s mouth.

“You don’t get to choose for me, remember?” he said gently. “I told you. I know how this works.” Took his hand down and pressed it to Mycroft’s chest. “Everything it touched, I’d lose. And that includes you.”

“Just from the beginning of this--”

“How do I get you to shut up?” Greg asked. Smiled; an honest smile. Mycroft’s lips thin and tight. “Number one. I am not about to lose anything. Understand?”

The grey mist swirled around them. Mycroft, after a long moment of staring, maybe trying to stare him down, nodded.

“Number two. It’s been stalking me longer than a few days. It said so.” He remembered that. Didn’t know if dreams counted; wasn’t prepared to take the chance. “And three. I could fall in love with you again, but--”

He slid his hand into Mycroft’s hair, pulled him down for a kiss. Let it linger, warm and sweet. Whispered, finally, “I want to spend that time loving, all right?”

The mist growing cold, and oddly darker. Familiar. And then, the pavement underfoot, the yellow lights of an empty city coming to life all around them. Greg laughed, laughed until it hurt, and hid his face in Mycroft’s neck.

The mist cleared, and then cleared more. The stars appeared, faintly.

*********

The city faded, resolving into the familiar walls of his flat. Greg was careful to keep his arms around Mycroft, just in case.

Images flickered in his mind, in terrible clarity: her eyes, her poor eyes, and worse, the scene. Her room, the blood on the rug. Her pale face.

“Gregory,” Mycroft said, holding him up as Greg sagged. Images pouring in: Sherlock’s glare, John’s painful confusion and embarrassment. The scale in Donovan’s hair.

“A bath, I think.” Mycroft hauled him along, propped him sitting on the closed toilet seat. Greg stared at his hands, more and more memories pushing through. The cave, now. The house, and its occupant. The sinking claws, the sharp bite--

The neat hole in his ear, mildly painful. When compared to his shoulder, or ankle. But the lobe felt thick, swollen. “No salt,” he said dully. Jumped a little when Mycroft laid his hand on Greg’s shoulder.

“You’re certain, now, that you made the right choice,” he said, skeptical.

“Aren’t you supposed to be pampering me?” Greg demanded, and shrugged out of his shirt. Gagged when he saw the blood, struck by a shocking, full-body memory of that creature wrestling him to the floor.

Felt Mycroft’s hands on his own before his vision cleared enough to see them. “Gregory...”

“I did.” Greg blinked hard. “Make the right choice. I didn’t think--I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.” Met Mycroft’s still somewhat skeptical gaze. “The others weren’t easy. Not as hard, maybe, but that doesn’t make them easy.”

“Others?” Mycroft repeated. His grip tightened a little.

“You didn’t think I’d made it forty years without being seen, did you?” Greg demanded. Mycroft’s dumbfounded, horrified expression said otherwise. “None of them came so close.”

“There were others!” Mycroft’s horror was beginning to give way to a look like the one he’d worn while wielding his knife. Greg extricated his hand, brought it to Mycroft’s face.

“You were running me a bath,” he reminded him. “Getting me antiseptic, too. We don’t want an infection.”

Mycroft shook his head, looked up at the ceiling. “Yes. Of course.”

The room grew warmer. Greg stripped carefully, watching Mycroft search his cabinet. Nicked the little glass jar of rose petals and dumped them in the steamy water, their scent still present. Growing stronger, as the tub reached half-full.

“Might be a while before I go swimming again,” he said conversationally. Mycroft was holding onto a bottle of rubbing alcohol, staring at blankly. “Mycroft?”

“I want to destroy everything that’s ever tried to hurt you.” His voice was very small.

Greg took a small washcloth and held it out to him; took the bottle and poured it out himself. “Yeah, well. Your brother’s on that list, so don’t go about it, all right?”

“Gregory!” Mycroft turned so swiftly that Greg flinched, spilling the alcohol on his side. Mycroft ducked his head, jaw working in frustration.

Put the washcloth on his shoulder, wincing at the sting. “I’m not helpless, you know.”

Mycroft rolled his eyes. Greg turned a laugh into a cough, barely, carefully washing his ear. “I didn’t say that.”

“No, you didn’t. And you won’t, because it isn’t true.” Greg knelt to clean his ankle, and smiled when Mycroft knelt with him. “I’m glad you were with me. The whole time.”

A small sigh, and the fight went out of Mycroft’s frame. He sat back against the wall as Greg twisted the tap, turning off the water. Climbing in.

“Hot,” he hissed, and relished it. Hot and sweet-smelling. He might be able to get through this without too many flashes of memory.

Mycroft laid his arm along the edge of the tub. Let his hand rest, palm-up. “I’m glad you are with me,” he said softly.

Greg, facing him, rested his arm along the edge as well. Placed his hand on Mycroft’s, and squeezed. Nothing more needed to be said.

They sat like that, together, until the water began to cool.

*********

fin